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The Trans-Pacific Partnership may have been signed by its 12 members last Thursday February 4th but it’s not yet a done deal. As representatives of the partner nations were all smiles for the cameras in New Zealand during the formal signing of one of the world’s largest multinational trade deals, tough negotiations are still ahead on what promises to be a bumpy road towards ratification.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, qualified the signing as “an important step” and acknowledged that the TPP “is still just a piece of paper” until the partnership actually comes into force following a two-year ratification period. During that period, six of the signing countries – which equals to 85 per cent of the combined gross domestic production of the 12 founding nations – must approve the final TPP text in order for the deal to be enforced.
Grassroots and political opposition
In many of the countries taking part in the TPP, grassroots and political opposition is wide spread. Among the main criticisms brought forward by TPP opponent is the secrecy surrounding the negotiations and general worries about possible reduced access to affordable medicines. Additionally, a worrisome clause for many states that foreign investors will have the right to sue if they feel their profits are impacted by a law or policy adopted by a host country.
During the signing of the TPP in Auckland, more than 1,000 protestors gathered outside causing traffic jams and various disruptions to demonstrate their profound opposition to the deal. Local police confirmed a large number of officers had been deployed to control the situation.
U.S politicians from both the Democrats and the Republican camps have been openly opposed to the TPP, which means that a vote regarding the ratification by US legislators may not happen before President Barrack Obama, who is pushing for the deal to go through, leaves office in early 2017.
Over in Japan, the recent resignation of the economy minister Akira Amari following allegations he accepted a bribe from a construction company, may result in a raise of opposition to the TPP within Japan. Mr Amari acted as Japan’s lead negotiator and was expected to be in New Zealand for the signing of the agreement but due to raising questions about the bribes, pulled away at the last minute to announce his departure.
Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland pointed out that the new government stood by its commitment to engage Canadians in a wide-ranging consultation on the TPP which is currently underway. The pledge, originally made during the recent election campaign, was brought forward by Prime Minister Trudeau’s team as a response to the Conservatives way of handling the TPP file. In addition, Minister Freeland while in New Zealand also affirmed that “signing does not equal ratifying.”
While Chile’s representative, Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Munoz predicted a “robust democratic discussion” back home, the Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb seemed more confident about the faith of the TPP in the hands of his government. Although opposition to the TPP has been mounting back in Australia, Minister Robb seems assured that the trade deal will be approved in spite of the fact that his government does not currently control the Senate.
In comparison to their counterparts, Mexico and Malaysia are moving quickly to locally ratify the TPP deal. Mexican Secretary of the Economy, Illdefonso Guajardo said the partnership would be voted on before the end of 2016, while Malaysia indicated they had already approved the deal noting that only some small legislative changes were still required.